Najib opts to take witness stand, will be subject to cross-examination

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KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 3): Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has opted to make a sworn statement at the witness stand to present his side of the story on the alleged misappropriation of RM42 million in former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) unit SRC International Sdn Bhd.

This means that Najib is liable to be cross-examined by the prosecution -- led by Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas -- that comprise appointed prosecutor Datuk V Sithambaram and other deputy public prosecutors.

In his opening statement for the defense, Najib’s lead defense counsel Tan Sri Muhamad Shafee Abdullah said given the serious consequences to the former premier’s liberty, Najib has used his best endeavours to prepare for the defence case in the circumstances. 

“He shall today take the stand as the first defence witness,” Shafee told the High Court here today.

Shafee then outlined matters which have been reflected in the evidence that has already been adduced during the prosecution’s case on which the defence shall rely on.

“At all times, the clear impetus behind KWAP [The Retirement Fund (Inc)] and the Government of Malaysia’s endorsement of the intended activities of SRC and the need for SRC to be adequately funded through the KWAP loans and secured by the Government Guarantees was based on the intended activities of SRC promulgating national key development areas identified in the 10th Malaysia Plan and the New Energy Policy. 

“This was the justification that underscored the decisions of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), KWAP, the Ministry of Finance and the Cabinet from the time the EPU approved of the setting up of SRC up to the time the Cabinet approved the second Government Guarantee on Feb 8, 2012 and the Ministry of Finance’s request for and KWAP’s approval on further RM2 billion loan to be disbursed to SRC,” he said.

“To say otherwise would be to unreasonably imply and infer that the relevant decision makers including the Head of the Treasury, relevant Ministers, members of the Investment Panel of KWAP and members of the Cabinet had committed a dereliction of their public, statutory and/or constitutional duties,” he added.

Shafee said the decision to bring SRC directly under the Minister of Finance Inc (MoF Inc) was approved by Najib after due deliberations had taken place between the EPU Minister and the Ministry of Finance and was based on the recommendations of the Mof Inc Department (BMKD), the very department which oversees the affairs of MKD. 

“The added supervision of SRC by the BMKD was envisaged as being in the best interest of MKD and the Government of Malaysia. The same also was endorsed by the Cabinet as one of the basis for granting the second Government Guarantee on Feb 8, 2012,” he said.

“Datuk Seri Najib at all times had no personal interest in SRC which can be said to be conflicted with his public duty,” he added. 

Shafee said the acts and involvement of Najib in matters concerning SRC led to matters which were endorsed or ultimately approved by KWAP, the EPU Minister, the Ministry of Finance, the Treasury and/or the Cabinet. 

“These acts of Datuk Seri Najib were motivated only by the best interests of the Government and Malaysia,” he said.

Najib is the first former Prime Minister to enter defence of a criminal charge.

He faces three charges of criminal breach of trust, an abuse of power and three money laundering charges in relation to RM42 million of SRC funds.

Najib was charged on July 4 last year, and the trial began on April 3.

The trial, running for 58 days, saw 57 prosecution witnesses testifying against Najib.

The Edge is reporting the proceedings of the SRC trial live

Users of The Edge Markets app may tap here to access the live report.